The Character of O-lan in Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth depicts the journey of a Chinese farmer and his family in the early twentieth century. It begins with the protagonist, Wang Lung, marrying a servant, O-lan, from a neighboring rich house. They start a family in their small country town, and endure grueling times, including droughts, floods, and war. Wang Lung and O-lan work as hard as horses to ensure their family's survival. The family's persistence finally prevails, and the land eventually produces great riches. O-lan plays a considerable role in the success of the family. Buck portrays O-lan as a resourceful and reliable woman.
O-lan is very knowledgeable and draws on past experiences. She is a skilled cook because she worked in the kitchens as slave. When O-lan first arrives at Wang Lung's house, she prepares a deliciously cooked meal. In response to Wang Lung's questions of her dexterity, she blandly replies, "'I have been kitchen slave since I went into the House of Hwang. There were meats at every meal'" (22). Wang Lung received many compliments from his family and friends for O-lan's dinner. She is familiar with the preparation many different kinds of food, such as corn cobs, meats, and other varied foods.
O-lan is an experienced beggar. This skill was used in a critical time. The family was forced to face many adversities during the drought. Wang-Lung and O-lan reluctantly decided to move to a southern city to escape starvation. O-lan used her childhood begging talents to assist the family in surviving the dilemmas of the city. She knew who to plead to, where to beg, and most importantly, taught the other children to beg.
In conclusion, O-lan's contributions to her family were invaluable. She held the family together when times were rough and stayed loyal to her husband. She represented a strong, hard-working woman, and never failed to put others before herself.
Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth. New York: Pocket, 1994.
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